Well, maybe not quite but we're getting there it seems, as the state is now requiring us to inform on our friends and families.
Yesterday morning, I received a phone call from a gentlemen in the EOTAs section of a Local Authority who asked me to tell him the names and addresses of all the people who attend a home education group we help to run and any other home educating families I happen to know about. Naturally, I told him this was impossible as I didn't know him from Adam and anyway I couldn't possibly breach people's confidentiality or betray their friendship and trust, even had he come at me with a badge, his Criminal Record's Bureau Check, his CV, his passport, you name it. All the while I was thinking, I do actually love loads of the people he is asking about. Who does he think I am?
The conversation, if anything, then took a turn for the even worse with a perfect demonstration of one LA employee's serpentine understanding of current legislation. Actually, chopped logic is the phrase that springs to mind.
I tried to explain that I thought he might like to think again about his understandable belief that he must search us all out for the purpose of assessing every family for the suitability of their educational provision, whether or not there is any reason to think that there might be a problem. I suggested that this behaviour might create both a constitutional and a practical problem for his authority, whatever current guidance might actually say.
I told him that since he (understandably) believes that it is this duty to assess all out of school educational provision, then he must accept that the state is responsible for determining the nature of education in this country. In which case, I went on, I think both home educating and state schooled parents alike whose children are being failed by this state-elected educational provision should be rubbing their hands rather gleefully, since it looks like bonanza time.
He then said "Well, it's up to the parents what and how they teach". In which case, says I, "Why are you bothering to visit? If the parent says that they are not going to help their child to learn to read because that is part of their educational philosophy, what exactly are you going to do about it, if it is up to the parents to make that decision?"
At which point, he turns round and says angrily and heatedly (sorry, this is mutating into a bad episode of Eastenders I do realise), "This is not what this conversation is about. I just rang you up for the names and addresses."
"Yes, you did," I says, "and I can't help you there, and no-one I know will help you".
"Well, how am I supposed to do my job then?" he asks.
"The thing is," says I, "I don't think that is my problem," which I don't think it is really, as I didn't vote for this government and didn't write the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
"But", says I, trying to be generous, "If it's any consolation, I'll tell you that there isn't a single family I currently know of who isn't providing a highly suitable education. "
"Well, that's not up to you to decide", says he.
I didn't actually manage to provide an instant summary of his argument at the time, but in l'esprit d'escalier:
"So what you're saying is that it's not up to the state to decide on the nature of a suitable education because it's up to the parents, but it's actually not really up to the parents, because in fact the state does have this duty. Err?
"Plus one would like to hope that the state, being the servants of society would represent that society, but given that it is not up to me (representing Jo Public) to determine the nature of a suitable education, then the state can't really be said to represent the populace on this point, prefering to simply silence them on these issues,
"And, now we come to mention the voice of the people, where is the child's voice in all this? Isn't the state supposed to be taking this seriously? If you are, then I can tell you that there isn't a single HE child I currently know of who is unhappy with their home education.
"What's more, most of these children are saying they don't want to have anything to do with you, so if you are saying you want to take them seriously, you will just have to listen to what the parent tells you about this."
I'm sorry to report that we didn't really part on terribly friendly terms.